story by Roby Brock, with Talk Business & Politics, a content partner with The City Wire
Dassault Falcon Jet broke ground on its new $60 million completion facility in Little Rock. The 250,000 square feet project will allow the Paris-based aviation firm to handle new aircraft projects and upgrade existing facilities, including the Falcon 5x and 8x models.
Construction will take place through the early part of 2016. The project will also include refurbishment of the cabinet, upholstery and headliner shops along with upgrades to older hangars. The expansion will bring the total facility footprint to 1.25 million square feet.
The announcement of the expansion was originally made in May 2013. At the time, state economic officials said Dassault could have located the facility in another part of the U.S., but they convinced the jet manufacturer to expand its existing plant.
Dassault qualified for payroll tax rebates based on current and future employment commitments and sales tax refunds on new equipment tied to the expansion. Gov. Beebe also contributed $2 million in money from his Quick Action Closing Fund to the project.
“Little Rock has been a major part of our company identity over the last 38 years and today is the company’s largest industrial facility,” said Eric Trappier, chairman & CEO of Dassault Aviation. “It has become our worldwide center of excellence for primary completion activities and pioneered the use of digital design in cabin completion. The new investment will not only increase capacity but enhance the overall quality and efficiency of the products we provide to our customers.”
“I like to say that a piece of Little Rock is always flying somewhere in the world because of the craftsmanship, ingenuity and dedication of our employees here,” said John Rosanvallon, president and CEO of Dassault Falcon Jet. “I am glad that the Dassault Aviation Board of Directors gave the green light for this major expansion and want to thank Governor Beebe, the Little Rock Airport Commission and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission for a productive exchange that ultimately led to a win-win agreement for Dassault Falcon Jet and the State of Arkansas.”
In addition to Gov. Beebe, U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor attended the groundbreaking ceremony on the grounds of the Little Rock Airport.
“Dassault Falcon Jet is a cornerstone of Arkansas’s aviation sector, and today’s significant investment will help cement that status for many years to come,” Beebe said. “This company is a big reason that aviation products are one of our top exports, and their Little Rock employees are a big reason Dassault Falcon Jet is committed to doing business in Arkansas.”
After today’s groundbreaking ceremony, several Dassault officials and city and state leaders congregated on a nearby tarmac. According to two sources, Dassault could be eyeing another expansion announcement in the near future as market conditions are improving.
Aviation and aerospace manufacturing is a huge Arkansas export product, according to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. More than 9,000 Arkansans are employed by the industry, including nearly 1,200 at Dassault Falcon Jet in Central Arkansas.
In 2012, Dassault delivered 66 Falcon aircraft and company officials said they expect that number to increase in the coming years.